Only 20 percent of retirees say they plan to convert some or all of their household savings into guaranteed income.

When the time comes for retirees to draw income from their savings, many unwittingly choose strategies that could increase their risk and reduce the number of years their money will last.

A LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute study of consumers between ages 45 and 75 with investable assets of $100,000 or more finds that 56 percent do not have a strategy for income in retirement. The strategy of those who do consists largely of making withdrawals from savings. 

In the study 6 in 10 who have a strategy said they plan to withdraw from their savings only occasionally or when needed. The issue of risk is more pronounced for the 32 percent who said they will make regular withdrawals from their savings. Of this group, most plan to withdraw a constant dollar amount or percentage of their savings on a regular basis.

Earlier research from LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute suggests that using only a withdrawal strategy invites risks that could deplete savings such as, withdrawing too high a percentage each year. Even if a retiree chose the often-recommended 4 percent withdrawal rate, future investment returns that are lower than previous ones could also jeopardize savings. History has shown that a safe maximum withdrawal rate is an elusive figure.

Along with market volatility, longevity is another important factor that can affect income planning. Secure Retirement Institute research has shown there is a 50 percent chance that at least one member of a 65-year old couple (of average health) will live beyond age 88 and a 25 percent chance that one of them will celebrate their 97th birthday.

The couple in this example would need an income source that lasts 30 years or longer. If they pursue only a withdrawal strategy, they risk not having enough financial resources for the last years of their lives.

Only 20 percent of those in the study said they plan to convert some or all of their household savings into guaranteed income. 

Companies and advisors can educate pre-retirees and retirees about guaranteed income sources to protect at least some of their assets from market uncertainties. When retirement can last three decades or more, securing income for the long term becomes an essential part of a financial strategy. 

 

See also:

Obama seeks to expand 401(k) use by letting employers pool plans

When planning for retirement, 90 is the new 70

2 Social Security changes and their effect on retirement income